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Dr Jodie McVernon says it was inevitable that swine flu would eventually hit our shores following confirmation this morning of three cases in Melbourne. Yet she assures Melbourne residents that these cases are not an indication of “wider community risk”.

Dr McVernon says surveillance measures put in place by the Department of Human Services upon the outbreak of swine flu aided containment of the virus to three boys from one family.

“The first child travelled while healthy and presented with symptoms late which is why he went to school for one day. Despite this there is no evidence at the moment that this family has spread the virus to anyone outside their family,” she says.

Dr McVernon says that while some ministers have advised people to prepare their pandemic pantries in readiness for a local swine flu outbreak, at this stage “we have a local event with three cases in one family, and no indication of wider community risk”.

“Australia is also very fortunate to have a dedicated vaccine manufacturer which has been building up its production capacity to develop a strain specific vaccine which is in process now and will take several months”.


A new study has shown that the effectiveness of the Komodo Dragon bite is a combination of highly specialized serrated teeth and venom. The authors also dismiss the widely accepted theory that prey die from septicemia caused by toxic bacteria living in the dragon’s mouth.

Using sophisticated medical imaging techniques, an international team led by Dr Bryan Fry from the University of Melbourne have revealed that the Komodo Dragon (Varanus komodoensis) has the most complex venom glands yet described for any reptile, and that its close extinct relative Megalania was the largest venomous animal to have lived.

A new study has shown that the effectiveness of the Komodo Dragon bite is a combination of highly specialized serrated teeth and venom. The authors also dismiss the widely accepted theory that prey die from septicemia caused by toxic bacteria living in the dragon’s mouth

A group of global health experts have united to pressure the World Health Organisation into including a process of mass vaccination into its management strategy for cholera outbreaks in Africa as the deadly disease spreads.

The announcement of a $57 billion deficit by the Federal Government on Tuesday did not surprise Associate Professor Mark Crosby; but the decisions to delay policies such as maternity leave and a pension increase have.

“It seems strange that the Government has decided to delay certain policies because if it’s a good idea why not start now?” he says.

“The effect of delaying these policy delays will have a minimal effect on revenue and taxes, as while some changes will cost the government, some are revenue raising.”

Associate Professor Crosby also said claims from the Liberals that they had built up a large surplus from which Labor are now spending is not accurate.

“While some of the reforms introduced by the Liberals – such as the GST – were good from an economist’s perspective, from 2002 onwards they simply got lucky. There was a lot of money coming in and they didn’t really use it as well as they could have,” he says.

“The challenge for the Labour party now is that they are in office during much more difficult times and will be forced to make difficult decisions.”

 Despite this, Professor Crosby says Australia is starting from a very strong position – even with such a large deficit - when compared to most global economies.

Associate Professor Mark Crosby is a lecturer in Economics at the Melbourne Business School.

With the Federal Government set to resume debate today on proposed changes to taxes on alcopops, Professor Rob Moodie, Chair of Global Health at the University of Melbourne, discusses the benefits of such a tax.

Professor Moodie says there is independent evidence that the alcopop tax does work in reducing consumption, with independent studies revealing 165 million fewer spirit-based drinks were drunk by Australians when the tax was enforced between May 2008 and January 2009.

Professor Moodie says making the tax permanent is an important step in creating a much safer drinking culture in Australia, and ultimately saving lives as part of a concerted effort to reduce teenage binge drinking.

The University of Melbourne has welcomed the announcement today of major Commonwealth and State funding to create a world leading comprehensive cancer centre in Melbourne.

Researchers have gained new insight into how the immune system responds to HIV. The new findings are a step closer to understanding how to develop preventative and therapeutic vaccines against HIV and why some individuals have better clinical outcomes after treatment.

Australia well prepared to face swine flu outbreak, says Director of the Nossal Institute for Global Health at the University of Melbourne, Professor Graham Brown

Professor Brown says he is not surprised that the World Health Organisation has called the recent outbreak of swine flu a public health emergency of international concern.

This has been noted as an epidemic of potential concern as the World Health organisation want to act early; because the flu has traveled outside Mexico, there is a risk of it becoming a pandemic, he says.

Professor Brown says there is no current vaccine for swine flu but that it would be possible - now that the genetic sequence is known - for scientists to begin preparing the seed lots and make a vaccine for the future. Yet Professor Brown says this could take a few months.

We do not have immunity to swine flu and we do not expect current influenza vaccines to protect humans against this new strain, but anti-viral drugs should be effective, he says.

Professor Brown says this outbreak will provide Australia with a good opportunity to prepare itself for a pandemic. He says that at times like this, it is more important than ever to remember the simple measures - like washing your hands - needed to prevent the spread of any form of influenza spread.

“If we win today we’re in the finals. It’s not for yourself today. Everything you do today is for all your team mates out there. You’ve done it all year, lift that care for each other up another notch. Let’s show them that there’s a bunch of blokes who know how to play for each other and know how to play footy,” Alan Brown, Coach, Fitzroy Stars Football Club.

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